Christ is proclaimed

Once again, it has been a long time since I wrote. The busy-ness of summer compelled me to take a hiatus from writing, and so I worked on another reading plan in my personal devotions. But now that fall has come and the kids are back in school, I want to finish this word study on joy I began now nearly two years ago. And since I left off in Philippians 1, it is in Philippians 1 where I will pick up again.

In Philippians 1:18, the word “rejoice” appears twice. Clearly, it’s important, but in order to see what’s going on, why the apostle is resolving to rejoice, I need to back up to verse 12, where I discover that he’s talking about how the gospel has been advanced because of the difficulties he has experienced. He goes on in verse 13 to explain that “it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is in the cause of Christ.” Further, in verse 14, we learn that other believers have seen the pain Paul has endured and been emboldened to press on in spreading the gospel.

And then we read this in verse 15: “To be sure, some preach Christ out of envy and strife, but others out of good will. These [who preach out of good will] do so out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the others [who preach out of envy and strive] proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely, seeking to cause me anxiety in my imprisonment.”

In other words, the apostle recognizes that, while there are those who proclaim the gospel out of a genuine love for people, there are others who are preaching because they are in some sort of sick competition with him, and these see his imprisonment as an opportunity to make a name for themselves and gloat over him.

I wish that I could say that I didn’t know anyone like that. In fact, I wish that I could say that I’ve never been like that. But the truth stings: Paul’s words ring true. There are, as sad as it is, a good number of men and women proclaiming the gospel who are in some sort of sick competition with the church up the street, the megapastor down the road, anybody and everybody else who may be proclaiming the gospel. To these, performance and numbers become consuming. Their church will be the fastest growing congregation on the block, in the city, in the state, district, denomination or world.

There is no option in this. Because, if they’re not the fastest growing congregation somewhere, then there is no one to gloat over, and the pastor’s whole facade comes crashing down.

I know this because I’ve been there. When things are going well, it is a very alluring temptation to minister out of a sense of competition. I would make sure to ask at various professional functions, “How is your church doing?” so that I can quickly spin it around to how my church is doing so much better. And when things are not going so well, it is a virtually inescapable pit. I would do virtually anything to avoid answering the question of hos my church is doing so that I wouldn’t have to face the reality that I was a failure.

The fact that Paul finds cause to rejoice on the heels of the dueling motivations for ministry is interesting to me. It speaks volumes about him as a man and minister of God. But it also speaks volumes about who I am supposed to be and why and how I’m supposed to minister.

Namely, I’m supposed to rejoice that the gospel is being proclaimed by others. Regardless of whether or not the person is gloating over me and/or I feel like climbing under a rock. And regardless of whether or not I want to do nothing but tell them all about the blockbuster ministry I just did.

Sometimes, that means that I need to suck it up and celebrate when someone else has ministry success and I have none. And sometimes, it means that I need to shut up about the success I have and rejoice with someone else about theirs.

The point is, I need to rejoice, regardless of how or why someone else is seeing ministry success, whenever, wherever, and by whoever the gospel is advanced.


1 Response to “Christ is proclaimed”

  1. 1 Rachel Meyer August 29, 2012 at 3:57 am

    You really are my favorite! This is a wonderful reflection and shouls cause all of us to pauese and take account. I know it does me. Thank yo for sharing this and I will share it with others here as well. I miss our Sundays! Hope to see you all soon. God Bless!  


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